Will Automation Save the Family Farm?

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Automation tools such as motion control and robotics have helped farmers overcome a world of pressures, from labor costs to the length of sunlight.

As agricultural labor becomes increasingly costly and scarce – and made worse by COVID-19 – farmers are turning to robotics and motion control as a solution for agricultural production. In recent years, agricultural labor has steadily become costlier and scarcer, particularly following the border closures and worker travel restrictions in the wake of the pandemic. These factors are further squeezing farmers' margins and threatening food security across the world.

According to a report from IDTechEx – Agricultural Robotics Market 2022-2032 –  automation is changing the prospects for farmers. And not just corporate farmers. Agricultural automation tools are affordable for smaller farmers, especially when matched against what they face without automation.

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The rise of agricultural robotics is leading to new value chains emerging.

Over the past decade, advances in robotics technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have made the use of farming robots increasingly viable. Across the world, a range of start-ups and established companies are working to develop robotic solutions for several agricultural tasks, from weeding and seeding to harvesting. And robots don’t always need sunlight to see their way through the fields.

 

We’re now seeing autonomous tractors, autonomous implement carriers, and platform robots. This equipment can harvest fresh fruit and vegetables. Agricultural drones can spray fields, and robotic milking reduces labor for dairy farms. Plus, robots can work at night. Companies such as John Deere have created agricultural robots that run on GPS positioning to augment vision sensors.

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